Coming to theatres today, Friday, December 9: SOLITARY
Kristi Jacobson’s exploration of longterm solitary confinement made its debut at Tribeca this Spring. It went on to screen at IDFA, Denver, Philadelphia, Stockholm, Human Rights Watch, AFI Docs, Sheffield, and Traverse City, among other fests.
Jacobson’s film is set within Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison, one of more than 40 American supermax prisons where inmates are often kept in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours each day. Having broken general population prison rules through violence, escape attempts, or other disruptive behavior, the men profiled in this sobering project find their reality reduced to eight-by-ten cells for an indefinite period of time, only able to communicate with passing guards or occasionally via vents with neighboring inmates. Jacobson spends a year at Red Onion, and is able to speak with several of the incarcerated men – all of whom have committed serious, violent crimes, including murder – about their experiences in isolation. They speak of boredom, frustration, anger, and suicidal ideation, underscoring the impact of such punishment on their mental well-being. Without sugar-coating their dark pasts and criminal activity that led to their incarceration, Jacobson presents an eye-opening look at the excesses of a prison system that values punishment over rehabilitation.